Austria’s Marcel Hirscher gets ready for another overall World Cup title run
BEAVER CREEK — Dos Equis beer ads proudly trumpet its spokesman as “the most interesting man in the world.”
“If there’s an elephant in the room, it’s because he brought one,” one ad says. “He’s the most interesting man in the world.”
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher may be about the most boring guy in the world, and he’s perfectly fine with that.
Boring is good. Mind-numbing consistency has added up to an unprecedented six straight men’s World Cup titles.
Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli held the previous mark of five overall titles, won over the course of nine years between 1985-1993.
Think of the greats of skiing. Ingemar Stenmark? He won “only” three overall crowns. Hermann Maier? The Herminator has four World Cup championships.
Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proell holds the women’s mark, also with six, 1971-1975 and 1979.
Again, do a mental roll call.
Lindsey Vonn? Four. Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider? Three. Croatia’s Janica Kostelic? Three.
Hirscher is in a league of his own not only in how he does it, but how he carries himself.
Despite having won six overall titles, Hirscher really isn’t an overall skier.
He’s a tech specialist. He has 45 World Cup wins — 20 in slalom, 22 in giant slalom, three parallel slaloms and a very surprising win at the 2015 Birds of Prey super-G.
Of his 107 career podiums, 49 are in slalom and 47 in GS.
Whereas Bode Miller, Carlo Janka, Aksel Lund Svindal, World Cup champions of years past, won the title by entering all five disciplines and picking up points here and there, Hirscher essentially trains two disciplines, pounding them mercilessly, and enters the occasional combined.
During his six-year run, Hirscher has finished third, first, first, first, second and first in the yearly World Cup slalom standings. GS? That would be 1-2-2-1-1-1.
At the 2013, 2015 and 2017 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships, he’s racked up nine medals, five golds in all, including winning both the GS and slalom in 2017.
All that is really left for Hirscher is the Olympics — his only medal to date is 2014 silver in slalom. He will enter the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as the prohibitive favorite in both GS and slalom.
About the only thing that can stop him is a drone falling from the sky. One would think that’s a joke, but it actually happened to him during a slalom in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, on Dec. 22, 2015. He still finished second in that race with drone wreckage in his wake.
Adding to his workmanlike devouring of the tech and general skiing world, his news-conference style.
Hirscher is the master of playing down his chances. If he were to compete in Buddy Werner League slalom against Vail 10-year-olds, he would say that he’d be lucky to make the flip against such stiff competition.
This is barely an exaggeration. After the 2011 Birds of Prey giant slalom, he crowned Ted Ligety, “Mr. GS.” That was very nice of Hirscher, but Hirscher actually won that race that day.
At Birds of Prey 2014, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud was off to a hot start, and Hirscher, then the three-time World Cup champion, was asked about his prospects for a fourth title.
“I think it is a tough fight,” Hirscher said. “Right now, there is no chance against Kjetil.”
Upon further review, Hirscher took down Jansrud, 1,448-1,288, in the World Cup points for title No. 4.
When interviewed about his prospects for his fifth title in a row, he said, “I am thinking about it. In statistics, I have no chance. No one has done it five times in a row. I have not good chances for this.”
He won No. 5 by nearly 500 points over Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen.
Hirscher broke his ankle during offseason training, but returned for the Levi, Finland, slalom last month. He finished what for him was an unsightly 17th.
Break down the numbers and he was actually third after the first run. It’s not taking him long to recover.
Step No. 2 in his injury rehab will be Sunday’s GS at Birds of Prey.
If you ask him, then he’ll probably say he has no chance.
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.